Saul Bass: A Master of Typography

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Ever been to the movies and been captured by the title sequences? Perhaps the art of movie posters has been an inspiration for you in your design work. There is one man in this field who deserves recognition as a trendsetter, innovator and legend: Saul Bass.

Mr. Bass, born in the Bronx in 1920, was an acclaimed graphic designer who's career spanned over 40 years, famously creating influential movie titles sequences, posters, and designing famous logos for global corporations. He's also attributed to epitomizing the advent of kinetic typography. This work mixes film and text and creates animated text sequences that convey or conjure particular ideas, emotions or messages. This was exemplified in the titles for Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest (1959) designed by Mr. Bass. 

There is a good chance you've come across his work in one of his many title scene contributions. He first gained much attention with his intro in Otto Preminger's The Man with the Golden Arm (1955). Using animation and a simple white paper cut out arm on black paper he was able to evoke the movie's controversial subject of heroin addiction. Other famous titles include: Around the World in 80 Days (1956), Vertigo (1958), Psycho (1960), Spartacus (1960), Ocean's 11 (1960) Seconds (1966). He was very active during the 1950s and 1960s, with his work wanning in the following decades. He was rediscovered by producer James L. Brooks and director Martin Scorsese in the late 1980s. Mr. Bass and Mr. Scorsese would go on to collaborate on numerous film titles for Goodfellas (1990), Cape Fear (1991) The Age of Innocence (1993) and his last title contribution Casino (1995). 

Visually dynamic, two-dimensional graphic design included numerous famous movie posters for some of the films noted above but also we recommend looking at Anatomy of a Murder (1959), It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), Rosebud (1975), and Kubrick's The Shining (1980). 

Mr. Bass' graphic design work included the iconic Bell Systems logo, Dixie's (1969), AT&T's globe logo from 1983, the YWCA's in 1988. For airlines he did some of the era's most recognized logos, Continental's 1968 jet stream logo, United Airlines 1974 "tulip" logo, and Frontier Airlines graphic identity in 1978. 

Mr. Bass died in Loas Angeles, California in 1996. Among his many accolades and industry awards he was also recognized with an Academy Award Oscar for his short documentary Why Man Creates (1968), which incorporates animation, film stills, handwritten text and on the street documentation. It ends with the affirmation, "this is what I am. I am unique, I am here. I am."  

Contact us to learn more about inspiring titans of the graphic arts. 

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